2012-05-20

Biased media & social networks in Mexico

The presidential elections in Mexico next July 1st are heating up the political landscape.

It has always been a tradition that most media support some candidate, in this case Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN) from PRI, who is ahead in their questionable polls. However, the information spreading on social networks is something they still cannot control.

On Friday, May 11th, EPN went to the Universidad Iberoamericana, one of the most recognized private universities in the country, where the students demonstrated their rejection towards him. Of course, none of this was seen in most media, one newspaper even Photoshopping their frontpage picture:

However, with half the students filming every moment with their smartphones, the real deal spread like wildfire on social networks and youtube. One of the claims to EPN was a police operation in the town of Atenco in the outskirts of Mexico City, while EPN was governor of the State of Mexico. State and federal police arrested dozens of people, raped about fifty women, and even killed some of the citizens. Even when EPN justified the spilled blood, there was no legal consequence.  [The reason that triggered the Atenco conflict was the plan to build a new airport for Mexico City, paying landowners about $500 USD per acre. The people refused, they were repressed, and even so they kept their lands.]

Yesterday there were "Anti-EPN" demonstrations in several cities, with about 46,000 in Mexico City. In some places people were beaten by EPN followers. Today there were demonstrations in support of Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) in several cities all over the world (London, Washington, Paris, Dubai, Oslo, Brussels, Istambul, etc.) and all over the country. We will see how the media cover these. For yesterday's demonstration, one major newspaper suggested that it was organized by Josefina Vasquez Mota (JVM) supporters, a declaration which has been ridiculized in twitter.

It is clear that Internet and social networks are making it more difficult for the government and the media to manipulate the citizens. However, in Mexico only about one third of people have Internet access, and a large percentage of those are under voting age. Social networks are having an impact which makes the situation different from the last election six years ago. The question is whether this impact will be large enough to spread the news beyond Internet users, in the rural areas, where people on average have less education and are manipulated more easily. I wonder how can we learn from the Arab Spring.

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